What's In Blue

Posted Mon 26 Jun 2023

Somalia: Vote on ATMIS Authorisation Extension*

Tomorrow morning (27 June), the Security Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution on the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) authored by the UK, the penholder on Somalia. The draft text in blue extends by six months the authorisation for African Union (AU) member states to deploy uniformed personnel in the country to carry out ATMIS’ mandated tasks.

The UK circulated an initial draft text to Council members on 14 June and convened one round of negotiations on 19 June, after which deliberations continued via email. It circulated a revised draft on Wednesday (21 June) for comments until Thursday (22 June). The penholder then circulated a second revised draft incorporating Council members’ comments and placed it under silence procedure until Friday (23 June) morning. Russia broke silence over several thematic issues, while other members made additional comments. The UK made further changes to the draft resolution and placed a third revised text under short silence procedure until Friday afternoon, which was extended twice upon some Council members’ request. The US broke the silence which was in place until today (26 June) at noon to provide additional edits on the draft, which were accommodated by the penholder, who then placed another revised text under a short silence procedure until today at 13:45. The draft text passed silence procedure and was then placed in blue.

The UK had proposed a straightforward three-month extension of ATMIS’ authorisation to allow the mission to prepare for a drawdown of 3,000 military personnel by the end of September. The negotiations were not expected to be controversial. During the negotiations, however, the Council’s three African members (Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique) made several proposals, apparently based on guidance from the AU. The A3 had also met with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was in New York on the invitation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—June’s Council President—to attend the Security Council’s 22 June meeting on Somalia.

During the negotiations, the A3 called for a six-month extension of ATMIS’ authorisation, underscoring the need for additional time for the AU to prepare for the next phase of the mission’s drawdown, while several other members suggested that the authorisation should be extended for one year. Pursuant to resolution 2670 of 21 December 2022, ATMIS is expected to withdraw 2,000 personnel by 30 June and a further 3,000 personnel by 30 September. At the 22 June Security Council meeting, Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia and head of ATMIS Mohamed El-Amine Souef reported that the drawdown of 2,000 ATMIS personnel is being implemented through the handover of several ATMIS forward operating bases to the Somali security forces and assured Council members that the mission will meet the 30 June deadline.

In response to the A3’s request for additional time to prepare for the next drawdown of ATMIS personnel, the penholder proposed a compromise for a six-month extension of ATMIS’ authorisation, which was accepted by Council members. Therefore, taking into account the 3,000 ATMIS personnel that are expected to withdraw by the end of September, the draft resolution in blue authorises ATMIS to maintain up to 17,626 uniformed personnel until 30 September, and 14,626 personnel from 1 October 2023 to 31 December. The draft text in blue also extends the provision of support packages provided through the UN Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS) to the Somali security forces involved in joint or coordinated operations with ATMIS. In this regard, Council members decided to increase the number of Somali security personnel covered by this support from 10,900 to 15,900, rising to 18,900 personnel from 1 October with a possibility for further increase based on UNSOS’ advice.

During the negotiations, the A3 also expressed concerns about a reporting requirement proposed by the penholder. The initial draft text requested Somalia and the AU to conduct a joint technical assessment by 31 July to evaluate the first phase of the drawdown to inform the planning process for the remaining phases of ATMIS’ drawdown. They were also expected to provide an update by 15 August on their preparations for the second phase of the drawdown, with a clear plan and timeline, taking into account the lessons learned from the drawdown’s first phase. However, the A3 apparently felt that the deadlines indicated in the draft were too short and sought an extension. As a compromise, the penholder extended the deadline for the joint technical assessment and for the update on the preparation of the next drawdown to 31 August and 15 September, respectively.

The other issue that the A3 raised during the negotiations was related to the “sector-by-sector” approach that the AU was expected to follow in implementing the phased drawdown of its personnel, taking into consideration the security situation in each ATMIS sector that is under the security responsibility of the troop-contributing countries (TCCs). These are: Sector 1 (Uganda) covering Mogadishu and Lower Shabelle region, Sector 2 (Kenya) including Lower Juba, Lower Shabelle, Middle Juba and Gedo regions, Sector 3 (Ethiopia) covering Bay, Bakool and Gedo regions, Sector 4 (Djibouti and partly Ethiopia) including Hirraan and Galgaduud regions, Sector 5 (Burundi) covering Middle Shabelle region and Sector 6 (composed of multinational forces from Ethiopia and Kenya). It seems that some Council members supported this sector-by-sector approach, but the A3 members were apparently sensitive to the views of the TCCs, which expressed concerns about possible differential treatment with this approach. In consultation with the AU and ATMIS, the A3 proposed a “pro-rata” approach in which the drawdown would be implemented in a proportionate manner. Eventually, however, the penholder and the A3 agreed to leave this matter to the mission’s discretion. The draft resolution in blue calls on the mission to ensure that the drawdown is “strategic, reflecting the Government of Somalia’s overarching security transition objectives and the security situation in each ATMIS sector, and takes into account measures for ATMIS force protection, and the need to maintain the hard-won gains across ATMIS’ area of operations”.

The draft text in blue also addresses the financial and logistical difficulties facing ATMIS, which remain a matter of concern for the Council. In their joint statement at the 22 June Council meeting, the A3 members emphasised this issue and called on the international community to provide support to the mission. The draft text in blue reiterates the need to exert continued efforts to secure future funding arrangements for ATMIS, considering the limitations of voluntary funding which has been financing the mission’s operations. It also commends member states and observers which have made voluntary contributions to ATMIS in the past year and encourages others to support the mission until the end of the security transition.

The successful implementation of the security transition hinges on the capacity of the Somali security forces to assume full security responsibility. There seems to be scepticism over Somalia’s readiness to do so, however, which has created concerns about the risk of leaving a security vacuum that could be exploited by Al-Shabaab. Recent attacks by the group—including one targeting an ATMIS forward operating base in the town of Buulo Mareer in the Lower Shabelle region on 26 May and another targeting a popular hotel located at Lido Beach along Mogadishu’s coastline on 10 June—appear to have heightened these concerns. Because of this issue, some Council members apparently opposed referencing December 2024 as the timeline for the mission’s final drawdown and exit. Other members, however, insisted on the need to state this deadline and the reference was retained in the draft resolution in blue.

At the 22 June Security Council meeting, Mohamud reported on the liberation of more than 70 towns from Al-Shabaab during the first phase of offensive operations launched by his government in cooperation with local clan militias and updated members about the next phase of the offensive operations against Al-Shabaab, codenamed “Operation Black Lion”. The Somali government is counting on the support of frontline states—namely Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti—to implement this offensive operation, which is aimed at dislodging Al-Shabaab from the remaining areas under its control.

In the context of this upcoming offensive operation, the Somali government has intensified diplomatic efforts advocating the lifting of the arms embargo imposed on the country under the 751 Al-Shabaab sanctions regime. The government has argued that the sanctions have constrained its ability to build the capacity of its security forces. At the 22 June Council meeting, Mohamud made a strong appeal for the lifting of the arms embargo, arguing that this is critical to empower his country to fight Al-Shabaab. At that meeting, the A3 and China supported the president’s appeal, arguing that lifting the embargo will help strengthen Somalia’s defensive capabilities. Other Council members, however, emphasised the need for Somalia to strengthen its weapons and ammunition management capability and demonstrate further progress in implementing the benchmarks set out in a 15 September 2022 technical assessment report submitted by the Secretary-General, to facilitate the lifting of the arms embargo. Ahead of the discussions on the extension of the 751 Al-Shabaab sanctions regime, which expires in November, Council members expect to receive by 15 September an update from the Secretary-General on progress in meeting the benchmarks.


*Post-script: On 27 June, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2687, extending the mandate of the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) for six months, until 31 December.

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